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Greek Cruising Sails into a New Era

Research done by European Cruise Contribution in Brussels recently showed increasing trends in the cruise line sector throughout Europe. Primarily, the research indicates there is an increase in orders for new cruise ships with the subsequent result being the creation of new employment opportunities and tourism in Europe.

These results indicate an optimistic outcome for the Greek cruise industry, with tangible results already evident. Greek maritime laws have often deterred cruise ships from flying the Greek flag. This, however, changed with Louis Hellenic Cruises, a subsidiary of Louis Group, who recently hoisted the Greek flag on the fifth cruise ship of its fleet, the Orient Queen.

Louis Hellenic Cruises hoisted a Greek flag on the Calypso earlier this year. According to the Louis Group this “proves their trust and support for Greek naval officers and crew” and for the goods and services provided by Greek hubs to service foreign-owned cruise ships.

This is a welcome addition to several Greek cruise companies that already fly the Greek flag exclusively, notably Monarch Classic Cruises, Hydraiki Naval Company, Ionian Cruises and Pleasure Cruises Shipping Co. all of which perform one to three day cruises in the Aegean.

The Greek cruise ship sector subsequently shows tremendous potential and this has become more apparent as the number of large foreign cruise liners that choose Greece as a port of call and departure is on the rise.

EasyCruiseOne cruises from Piraeus to 11 Greek islands with a choice of three-, four- and seven-day itineraries. There is also a seven-day itinerary to discover ancient Greece. This selection of cruises, “will reinvigorate the cruise ship industry in Greece because it provides,” as Stelios Hatziioannou, the founder of easyCruise, said “an entirely new means of vacations at sea for young people and independent individuals who want to discover Greece without spending a fortune.”

Beyond easyCruiseOne that serves as a budget option for travelers, there has been a significant increase in the number of luxury cruise ships operating within the Aegean. Princess Cruises chose to christen the Emerald Princess at Piraeus harbor in a grandiose ceremony attended by celebrities and dignitaries from all tourism sectors in Greece. Princess Cruises, whose general sales agent in Greece is Cruiseplan, performs several cruises in Greek waters and also uses Pireaus port for embarkation and disembarkation.

Cruiseplan is also the general sales agent for Silver Sea Cruises, Cunard Lines and Seaborn Cruises who either embark or disembark from Piraeus Port. This is the first year that foreign ships are allowed embarkation and disembarkation from Pireaus Port as a consequence of the long-term cabotage that previously hindered the industry.

According to Demie Galanou, executive manager of Cruiseplan, “this is a new era for cruise ships in Greece.” She said they anticipate a 40% increase in embarkation and disembarkation from Pireaus and to meet this target, “tour operators need to be trained to promote this product and Greek travelers need to be informed that they have an option of a cruise for their holidays, which offers security and best value for money.”

Furthermore, the Galaxy of Celebrity cruises, whose general sales agent is Navigator Travel & Tourist, has chosen Greece as a port of call. Celebrity Cruises has gone one step ahead and has invested in Greece with the creation of a subsidiary, Azamara Cruises.

Two luxury cruise ships, the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest, will shortly commence cruises to seven destinations in the Mediterranean. Lavrio will be the port of embarkation and disembarkation with routes planned to Heraklion, Santorini, Nafplio, Githio, Itea.

According to Andreas Stylianopoulos, managing director of Navigator, “the Mediterranean absorbs 12,6% of the world share of cruise destinations and Greece has the product and the power to develop in to an equally appealing destination as is the Carribean, which absorbs 45% of the cruise market. He added, “We believe the routes planned by Azamara will be the first step in this direction.”

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